Don’t you just love it after you’ve stocked up on random bulbs that you bought to plant in the spring only to realize that a few weeks later that they come with a dire warning? The warnings are usually along the lines of “Plant now or forget having flowers in spring.” Or worse, “You should have planted them last month!” We all get busy and forget what we bought weeks ago. But even if the ground has frozen solid in your area, you can still make bulb containers to create a spring show of flowers. Best of all, they don’t have to go indoors for the winter!
Bulb Container Supplies
You can use one that you already have, as long as it’s cleaned out. I try to use terracotta for plants that like good drainage and don’t mind the heat. I use plastics for species that need more moisture and faint at the first signs of triple digits. It probably doesn’t matter much either way for bulb plants since they fall somewhere in the middle. Use what you have on hand. Just be sure the container in question has a drainage hole.
I got a whole assortment from Lowes for $1 apiece during the Black Friday sales. Even if I hadn’t lucked out, these plants typically cost about $4 per assortment.
Yes, potting soil. Don’t buy garden soil. We’ve discussed this. It’s not the same thing. Garden soil is thick, clumpy, and not much will survive because of how much moisture it holds. However, you can make it work for most plants (probably not cacti or orchids) by adding in some perlite and/or horticultural sand.
I’m a fan of Osmocote granules because they’re pretty much idiot proof. But any sort of fertilizer will be good for your bulb plants. Just make sure that you read the label and err on the side of caution. If you don’t you could fry your beloved garden specimens. So speaks the voice of tragic experience.
Total Project Cost: $12 including tax. This buys two full-price bags of bulbs and one bag of cheap potting soil. If you needed a new container, add that to the cost of your calculations.
1. Fill the container about half-full of dirt. How much you use depends on the size of the bulbs. Bigger bulbs naturally need bigger containers and need to be covered with more soil. However, there are some bulbs such as amaryllises that shouldn’t be completely buried in the ground. Definitely read the instructions on the packet your plants came in if it’s still around.
2. Arrange the bulbs according to the direction they came with. Spacing them a few inches apart is a generally good bet if you’ve lost the instructions. You can put them closer together for a better flower show in the spring. But you risk some of them not coming back or blooming in the following years. If any have sprouted prior to this point, make sure they’re planted first.
Bulb Container Assembly: Continued
3. Add fertilizer if you like. Then cover the bulbs with the rest of the dirt to an appropriate depth. Any plants that have sprouted should have tips that are barely sticking up above the dirt’s surface. This helps you see them when you water them so that you don’t accidentally cause them to move out of place before they have a chance to grow roots.
4. Finally, water the bulbs thoroughly and make sure they stay hydrated in the months to come. You can leave them outside in the garden for the winter if you like. However, this isn’t the case for amaryllises. They’re tropical plants and will have to be brought indoors during the winter months in most areas.
Bonus Tip: You can stick any extra bulbs in containers full of annuals that will soon die. Or, you can fill in the gaps in perennial containers with these plants.
Other Bulb Container Notes
Squirrels can also be a problem with some bulb plants. For instance, they were extremely interested in the saffron crocuses that I ordered from an online company. But they totally ignored my daffodils and anemones that came from a nearby store. (Yes, the squirrels in my yard have expensive taste. Only imported stuff will do).
You can cover the bulbs with nets or wire grating of some sort to keep these bright-eyed, bushy tailed rodents out. I read in a recent issue of Ranger Rick magazine (my niece gets it) that they can smell as much as 10 feet underground! So if they are interested in your plants – precautionary measures are a must.
Finally, don’t forget to water the plants if it doesn’t rain and the weather is warm enough for this to be a problem. Like most people, I tend to remember the fact that the plants haven’t been watered in a week only when I’m lying in bed at 4 a.m. They will likely die quickly if you forget. So don’t forget!